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Labor Market

New model against youth unemployment

The transition from school to workplace is difficult for many young Germans. The city of Hamburg has now developed a model that helps young people in their job search: The youth employment agency.

"After school, some things went wrong after I completed my schooling," says 20-year old Kevin Losz. He started pursuing two vocational training programs in the last few years, however failed to complete them. "It was just not the way I had imagined," he says.

For months, the young man had sent one job application after another, but remained unemployed with a secondary school degree. "It was very hard for me to gain a foothold," he recalls.

Not a dream job

Since almost a year now, Kevin has been doing an apprenticeship as a mechatronic technician repairing commercial vehicles at a workshop in the German city of Hamburg. Admitting that it is not his dream job, Kevin says that he prefers working either in the metal industry or as an electrician. "But now I am now working on trucks, which is also OK", he added.

But the fact that the young man at least found a trainee position was due to the existence of the youth employment agency. The model is still quite new to Germany. The agency deals exclusively with young people up to 25 years. The first agency was opened in Hamburg two years ago and since then, they have been expanding.

Kevin Losz in action

Kevin says that he would like to continue working at the site after the apprenticeship

'What will become of me?'

"No one should drop out - all are needed," is the slogan of the youth employment agency. It wants to help high school graduates to orient themselves towards the labor market as, precisely in this situation, many young people are still not sure which career is right for them, says Dusan Djordan of the youth employment agency in Hamburg.

Most of them would start thinking about it only a long time after graduating from school and by that time, it's often too late to look for a suitable trainee position, explains Djordan.

Official figures confirm this problem. In Germany, unemployment among young people under 25 years of age stands at just below 8 percent. Compared to its European neighbors, the figure is relatively low. In Greece, for instance, more than every second young person is without a job.

However, the transition for young people from school to professional training is particularly hard in Germany. More than half of the young unemployed in the country have not undergone any vocational training.

All under one roof

At the youth employment agency, employees from various government departments like career advisors, social workers and school board staff work together. In fact they are doing the same work that they have always done. But the difference is that they are now able to help young people better and faster.

"Previously young people used to often fall by the wayside as we used to send them from one department to the other," Djordan told DW. But now as employees from different departments sit side by side in the same office, young people are able to resolve the problems confronting them all at once, he added.

Employees working here help them not only in their job search, but also assist them in other matters such as finding accommodation and managing finances.

A model also for others

This all-round service already achieved initial success. 14,000 young people took advantage of the offer in Hamburg last year. The agency was able to find employment for nearly 6,000 of them which is a remarkable number. As a result, youth employment agencies are likely to spring up across Germany, and perhaps even beyond its borders as there is plenty of interest in them.

And it is not limited to euro-crisis countries such as Greece and Spain, where youth unemployment is still overwhelmingly high. Even officials from nations like Sweden and the Netherlands have paid visits in order to observe the work done by the agency.

Dusan Djordan talking to a DW reporter

The youth employment agency wants to help high school graduates adapt to the labor market, says Djordan

Kevin Losz got the apprenticeship opportunity due to the support offered by the youth employment agency. His former career counselor at the agency had initially arranged an internship for him at the workshop. He then quickly managed to convince his boss of his skills.

Kevin's background did not play much of a role, said his boss and workshop manager Jörg Meyer. "I need young people who are reliable and buckle down," Meyer stressed.

Although Kevin has not found his dream job so far, he was able to get a trainee position. The program will last for three more years and the 20-year old says he would like to continue working at the site even after that.